Jimmy Aaron, Director of the Gilmore Center, spoke to the Upson County Board of Commissioners last week about his concerns of the county cutting the funding for the Gilmore Center this year in half. While working on the budget for 2014, the commissioners were faced with making rather large cuts in order to balance the budget and one of those dealt with the Gilmore Center. In 2013, the budget for the Gilmore Center was $100,000 and this year it has been reduced to $50,000. Currently, the Gilmore Center is funded by Upson County, but will be part of the joint projects with the City of Thomaston once the agreement is finalized.
Mr. Aaron noted the Gilmore Center and the county have always had a good working relationship, of which he is very appreciative. He further stated that in the past, when the Gilmore Center was going to be discussed in a county meeting, someone would pick up the phone and give him a call so they would be aware of what was going on. However, this time no one informed him or anyone else at the center when their budget was going to be discussed.
He also told the board the reduction forced the entity to choose between losing two full time employees or face reducing the services to the people of Upson County.
“We don’t sell things, we don’t make arts and crafts to sell or do car washes. What we do is we offer a service to the people of this community, this city and this county and we thought that everybody understood what an asset we were. I say that humbly, but I also say it with pride; the Gilmore Center is an asset to this area,” said Aaron. “I want you to think about the fact of being without the Gilmore Center. The things you folks sitting here would have to do to serve the people that we serve. If that were laid on your table and we weren’t here to do it, I don’t know if you would be able to do it.”
Aaron stated that currently the county does not have to deal with any of the paperwork or government agencies such as No. 2 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Medicaid and Social Security, which is a monumental task. He went on to say how devastating and awful it was to have the Gilmore Center’s budget cut in half, something he felt was unheard of. He noted that if there was any money left in the budget at the end of this year, then he would like to see the center’s budget to be reinstated.
Chairman Blackston told Mr. Aaron that the board is very appreciative of the services the Gilmore Center provides for the community and apologized for not informing the entity when they were going to be on the agenda; he would make sure that did not happen again. He stated the reduction in their budget this year was due to the tough financial times the county was facing and the board did what they had to, to make ends meet. He also noted that the Gilmore Center is one of the joint projects with the City of Thomaston and that budget will be coming back up for review before too long as it has to be approved by July.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1